Internet Explorer 9: looks good, but Firefox is still my favorite

I just got the latest beta version of Internet Explorer 9 from Microsoft’s promotional IE site: http://www.beautyoftheweb.com. And I must say that this release is a huge step forward for Microsoft. Here’s what I liked the most after playing around with it for a while:

  1. Of course the number one thing is speed. The improvement here is spectacular. For JavaScript-heavy sites like the WordPress dashboard, it feels noticeably faster than Firefox.
  2. I am not sure whether this might have been in IE8 already, but as I have to use IE7 at work, I just hate that I can’t re-open tabs I accidentally closed. IE9 now keeps a history of previous tabs. That’s great.
  3. The address bar has also been improved nicely over IE7. Being able to type a couple of letters to incrementally search my bookmarks is huge for me. Given the number of bookmarks I have, having to find something in IE7’s Favorites folder is a huge productivity killer.

Nonetheless, I don’t feel like I would want to switch back from Firefox just now. Here’s why:

  1. Having the tabs next to, instead of above or below the address bar gives them too little room. I tend to have a lot of tabs open at any given time, so I want the tab bar to have available the full width of my monitor. It’s small enough as it is.
  2. It’s not possible to close the last tab by middle-clicking it. I oftentimes want to close all the pages and have a clean slate. This is something I have to enable in the advanced options in Firefox, but IE makes me open a new, blank tab and then close the other tab to mimic that behavior. I just find it strange that the last tab behaves differently when it comes to middle-clicking.
  3. As I was switching between tabs, for a brief second a ghost image of a previously closed tab appeared. I guess this is just be a glitch as this is just a beta release that will be ironed out for the final version.
  4. I want my browser to always accept cookies, but throw them all away (along with the history, cache etc.) when I close the browser. This way, I know I start with a clean slate whenever I close and re-open my browser. This level of control over cookies doesn’t seem possible in IE.
  5. It’s still too much work to bookmark stuff. I love that it’s just one click in Firefox to add a bookmark for the current site under “Unsorted Bookmarks”. I often use this feature to quickly bookmark pages I want to revisit and classify later. IE always wants me to choose a folder first. Normally, I’m all about freedom of choice, but sometimes things like this just get in the way. There is a nice discussion of this in chapter 3 of Joel Spolsky’s excellent book User Interface Design for Programmers.
  6. Finally, the lack of something like AdBlock and NoScript: These are the two Firefox extensions I can no longer live (or at least surf) without. Not being able to meticulously control what sites may run scripts and add-ins in my browser is a deal-breaker for me.

So in the end I will probably stay with Firefox for the foreseeable future. I did check out Chrome once, since all the cool kids seem to be using it these days, but the thought of having my browser report to Google is just a bit too scary for me.

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